Use the noun shrew — at your own risk — to refer to a woman who is argumentative, nagging, and ill tempered.

The noun shrew can also refer to a mouse-like animal with tiny eyes, a long snout, and a sharp bite. Superstitions associated with this small mammal led people in the thirteenth century to use the word shrew to describe a spiteful person, male or female. The word later came to be used to describe a nagging, ill-tempered woman, as in William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Unless you are a famous dead author, however, you may want to steer clear of this one in conversation: it’s considered offensive.

Definitions of shrew
  1. noun
    small mouselike mammal with a long snout; related to moles
    synonyms: shrewmouse
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    Sorex araneus, common shrew
    common American shrew
    Sorex cinereus, masked shrew
    commonest shrew of moist habitats in North America
    Blarina brevicauda, short-tailed shrew
    North American shrew with tail less than half its body length
    water shrew
    any of several small semiaquatic shrews usually living near swift-flowing streams
    Cryptotis parva, least shrew
    small brown shrew of grassy regions of eastern United States
    American water shrew, Sorex palustris
    water shrew of North America
    European water shrew, Neomys fodiens
    widely distributed Old World water shrew
    Mediterranean water shrew, Neomys anomalus
    a type of water shrew
    type of:
    small insect-eating mainly nocturnal terrestrial or fossorial mammals
  2. noun
    a scolding nagging bad-tempered woman
    synonyms: termagant
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    a noisy or scolding or domineering woman
    (Yiddish) a vulgar shrew; a shallow coarse termagant
    type of:
    disagreeable woman, unpleasant woman
    a woman who is an unpleasant person
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